WASHINGTON – A former US State Department official has warned that the next Pakistan government emerging from May elections will demand an end to American drone strikes on their territory.
“Whatever civilian leadership is installed will demand greater respect for Pakistani sovereignty by the US and an end to the use of drones,” Karl Inderfurth, a former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, said in a statement.
“The US would be well-advised to seek some kind of accommodation with the Pakistani government on both these fronts,” said Inderfurth, now a senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“To paraphrase the statement made many years ago in Vietnam: We are at risk of destroying the relationship [with Pakistan] in order to save it.”
Meanwhile, a month-long nationwide anti-drone campaign kicked off in New York on Thursday, with a number of activist groups taking part in demos to draw public attention to the use of unmanned aerial vehicle in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries.
Dozens of protesters from “Grandmothers Against the War” gathered in New York City to denounce the US government’s use of drones. They chanted slogans and called placards like “Drones fly, children die.” The grandmothers protest kicked off what participants say will be a month of rallies called ‘April Days of Action’, organised by the New York-based group ‘Know Drones’.
There are demos planned across the United States at drone-manufacturing plants and universities that research drone technology. “Too many civilians have been killed by these drones, and that includes women and children,” an activist at the demonstration said.
The protest in New York will be followed by three days of protests outside the facilities of companies that make drones, including at San Diego-based General Atomics.
According to estimates by the London-based nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has conducted 366 drone strikes since 2004, killing as many 3,581 people, including 884 civilians, and wounding 1,465. About 314 of those drone strikes have been carried out in the Obama administration.
A dispatch in the conservative Washington Times noted that Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, has said that if his party is elected, his government will not tolerate drone strikes.
Imran Khan, who now heads the PTI, has led thousands of supporters in a protest march against the drone strikes.
His party is not expected to collect enough seats to form a government, but in the event of a strong performance, he could end up in a kingmaker role, the newspaper said.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who heads the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution, said US-Pakistan relations will remain tense, regardless of who wins the elections.
Daniel Markey, senior fellow for South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, has said, “I think if you get a new Prime Minister like Nawaz Sharif, you will get a series of negotiations, renegotiating the terms of a variety of things, including the use of drones, including other counterterror cooperation.”
“And those negotiations I think may be difficult ones, ones the United States would ideally have preferred to avoid.”
Ryan Crocker, a former US Ambassador to Pakistan, has said discussions on the drone programme will “lead to some understandings on how this whole programme is implemented.” “We can only do this in cooperation with the approval of the Pakistani government, the civilian leadership as well as the military,” Crocker said.